Sweet Latin Lasagna [Pastelon]  

Hola amigos! You may have already guessed that today’s recipe is a Latin one! Foodies, if you haven’t guessed my signature style by now….let me tell you what it is! I am all about BIG…BOLD…FLAVOR! I love international cuisine & love to travel through each culinary experience. Some of my very first experiences with food were centered in the melting pot of the big apple…also known as NYC! I grew up in a diverse neighborhood in an eclectic family much like Ayesha Curry! Did I mention I absolutely adore her by the way! My family heritage includes an exotic blend of Caribbean and Hispanic that I am proud of and I would like to think that’s where I developed my flair for all things flamboyant including my taste for food!

Lol! You guys are going to love this dish because guys it’s lasagna and who doesn’t love lasagna? Well actually Pastelon in my opinion is like a sweet & flavorful lasagna/ shepherd’s pie hybrid with an exotic twist! Depending on the island & region, Pastelon has it’s on variations unique to location and also who’s abuela passes down the recipe! Lol! Some are made with plantains & some are made with rice but guess what amigos….mine includes both! Oh yeah!

From the looks of it smothered in all that mozzarella it looks like your good old traditional lasagna but it is vastly different. It consists of two classic components. One being “maduros” also known as strips of fried ripe plantains which look like giant bananas known all over the Caribbean for their sweet flavor and unique texture, these plantain strips replace your usual lasagna noodles. The second component is the “carne molida” or “picadillo” filling which is the glorious meat sauce commonly made with the addition of olives and/or raisins. To my vegetarian friends out there I have a great vegan option that would be amazing just check out the options below. Sounds odd to imagine all these sweet and unique flavors in a lasagna or shepherds pie but you better believe it is dynamite! Come on guys…has Caribbean food every failed you before or anybody for that matter? If you’ve ever eaten Caribbean or Latin cuisine such as Mexican grub or food from a Jamaican food truck you know just what I’m talking about with those rich and amazing flavor combinations now imagine it with Italian flair and that’s Pastelon! So without further delay let’s get to the recipe! Let me know in the comments what Caribbean or Latin dishes are your favorite or any you would like me to feature on the blog and until next time Good Eats folks!

Cooks Notes:

  • Feel free to switch it up by using
    ground turkey, chopped grilled chicken or “carnitas” shredded pork in place of ground beef!
  • This would also be excellent as a vegetarian option by omitting the meat, doubling the amount of diced tomatoes and adding in black beans and roasted corn into the original sauce mixture.
  • For a nontraditional spin you can also switch up by swapping the plantains for a layer of sliced & roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Plaintains are similar to bananas but they are not bananas and cannot be used in place of actual plantains! Be sure to use RIPE plantains which means black or very close to black plantains because they produce the perfect texture and sweetness. Yellow plantains have a much firmer texture and high starch content, they are also not sweet which makes them closer to potatoes when unripe and are traditionally used to make plantain chips instead.
  • To slice a plantain start by cutting the ends off then using a knife to remove all four sides of peel without removing too much flesh. Plaintains do not peel like bananas
  • Do not under any circumstances leave out the raisins, they are a must in this recipe! Trust me on this folks…they are a delicious addition and add a great balance of flavors. Remember Pastelon is a mix of savory & sweet flavors!

*Serves 4 to 6

My Spanish Rice (Quick Version/Shortcut)

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 1 can Rotel or salsa
  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sazon, Adobo or kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • Cilantro or parsley for garnish

Once rice is cooked, saute veggies then add in rice, seasonings and cilantro and mix well.
Carne Molida/Meat Sauce Recipe

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 -1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cups raisins
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles, drained
  • 1 tablespoon Sazon all-purpose seasoning salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Goya Adobo seasoning or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oregano or Italian seasonings
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

In a large skillet, brown ground beef until well cooked then drain most of the fat. Add the onions and saute until softened then add in the diced tomatoes with chiles, garlic, tomato sauce and brown sugar. Mix well until combined then season with all the above seasonings and mix until thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning adjusting if desired. Bring sauce to a boil and then simmer on low for about ten to fifteen minutes then remove from heat.
Pastelon Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked Spanish, yellow or Cajun dirty rice (see my recipe above)
  • Carne Molida meat sauce (see my recipe above)
  • 4 to 6 large RIPE plantains, sliced lengthwise about 1/2″ thickness per slice
  • 1/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 2 to 3 cups mozzarella or Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • Cilantro or parsley to garnish


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and you will need a medium sized baking or casserole dish.
  • In a large preheated skillet filled with 1/2 cup vegetable oil fry your plantains until brown about 2 to 3 minutes then turn over to finish cooking the other side. Remove to drain on paper towels. (Test your fried plaintains if not sweet enough lightly sprinkle with brown sugar on both sides while still hot)
  • To assemble spray your dish with nonstick cooking spray then start with a base of fried plantains on the bottom and up the sides of your baking dish. Next top with 1/4 cup marinara sauce and 1 cup cheese.
  • Now alternate twice by layering rice than meat sauce. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese and garnish with cilantro.
  • Bake for fifteen minutes or so or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

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